Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist is batting .458 over his past six games.
Kim Klement / USA TODAY Sports
By Andrew Astleford
What's next after the cut-deep loss to the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday at Tropicana Field?
What's to come after near-certain victory became agonizing defeat at a time when the Tampa Bay Rays have no business frittering away such could-have-been wins anymore?
The All-Star break beckons. First, the Rays must regroup for three key games against the Toronto Blue Jays at home. That's easier said than done after their momentum slammed into a speed bump Wednesday, one in the form of a 330-foot, three-run home run from Salvador Perez off reliever Kirby Yates in the top of the ninth inning.
Manager Joe Maddon has said winning series stands as the Rays' goal now. So Tampa Bay, by that standard, fell short earlier this week in the latest example of Kansas City controlling the matchup between the teams since the start of 2013.
The numbers, with each passing day, look daunting. The Rays are 42-52, 9 1/2 games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The latest playoff probabilities report on MLB.com gives Tampa Bay a 4 percent chance to make the postseason.
So it's back to the basics, a return to the grind.
Win series. Win them now.
Tampa Bay, coming off a stomach-churning loss, has precious little time for more.
Jose Reyes (Blue Jays): He hit .370 (10 for 27) with one home run and three RBI in six games from July 4-9. He had two multi-hit games in that span, including going 4 for 5 in a victory over the Los Angeles Angels on July 8. He has hit .269 with seven home runs and 26 RBI this season.
Ben Zobrist (Rays): Zobrist batted .458 (11 for 24) with three RBI in six games from July 4-9. He had four multi-hit games in the span, including going 4 for 5 with one RBI in a victory over the Detroit Tigers on July 6. He has hit .266 with six home runs and 21 RBI this season.
Jose Bautista (Blue Jays): He hit .167 (4 for 24) with six strikeouts in six games from July 4-9. He went hitless twice in the span. He has hit .292 with 17 home runs and 52 RBI this season.
Logan Forsythe (Rays): He hit .100 (2 for 20) with six strikeouts in six games from July 4-9. He went hitless five times in the span. He has hit .236 with three home runs and 14 RBI this season.
87: Victories by right-hander James Shields during his career with the Rays, the total representing a franchise best among pitchers. He allowed just three hits and struck out 10 in seven innings during the Royals' 6-0 victory Monday at Tropicana Field.
4 1/3: Length, in innings, of right-hander Jeremy Hellickson's season debut with the Rays in their 4-3 victory over the Royals on Tuesday at Tropicana Field. He allowed one run, six hits and struck out two in his return from January arthroscopic surgery on his throwing elbow.
4: Losses for the Rays since June 25, the latest a 5-4 defeat to the Royals on Wednesday at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay fell despite Kevin Kiermaier going 4 for 4 with a grand slam in the fourth that gave the Rays a 4-2 lead.
"We've seen that act before. Wrong uniform this time, though." -- Maddon, after the Rays' loss to Shields on Monday. Shields is 2-0 against his former team since being traded to the Royals in December 2012.
"I was pretty anxious. Had a few butterflies floating around when I was warming up in the outfield. It felt really good to get back on a mound in a big league game." -- Hellickson, after his return to the rotation in the Rays' victory Tuesday. Before then, his most recent appearance in the majors was a one-inning start in a loss to the Boston Red Sox in Game 4 of the AL Division Series on Oct. 8, 2013.
"It stings a little bit. It's a game we could have won and we needed to win." -- Yates, after he surrendered a go-ahead three-run home run by Perez in the ninth during the Rays' loss Wednesday. The Rays were seeking their fourth consecutive series victory.
PROMOTIONS AND GIVEAWAYS
July 11 -- Tampa Bay Times Ticket Tandem â Rays Umbrella
July 12 -- District K-9 Seating; Joan Jett and the Blackhearts Postgame Concert